Reducing costs associated with your waste stream

Energized by receiving training in lean manufacturing methodologies, an engineer forms an internal team to map the value stream of her company’s key product line or processes, revealing cost and time saving opportunities. Feeding on the enthusiasm of her team, recommendations are made to management about the path to move forward. Management encourages the engineer to focus on eliminating traditional wastes such as time spent waiting, inventory, and excess material or component transportation. Meanwhile, some obvious environmental wastes are ignored, and along with them, the opportunities for significant savings.

“Lean & Clean” is an emerging concept in continuous improvement that balances the efficiencies of a company’s processes with development of sustainable operating practices. Plant managers and upper management tell IMEC they need to reduce costs associated with their waste streams. They are challenged by:

Lean & Clean projects focus on eliminating environmental waste in addition to process waste. Working in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Green Suppliers Network to help small and medium-sized manufacturers stay competitive and profitable while reducing their impact on the environment.

The Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center conducts Lean & Clean reviews in partnership with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. The first day includes training on identifying environmental waste, value stream mapping, Kaizen events and 5S+Safety. Following the training, a current state map is generated focusing on process and environment inputs and outputs. The second day is spent developing a future state map including Kaizen events that incorporate improvements to mitigating environmental impacts.

If your company is not running lean and clean and you wish to reduce costs associated with your waste stream, call IMEC at 888-806-4632 for a free assessment. Visit greensuppliers.gov for more information about the Green Suppliers Network.

When embarking on a lean continuous improvement, a company will almost always indirectly eliminate green-related wastes. For example, by reducing inventory, a company will inherently save on materials, or, when reducing batch sizes per a standard lean recommendation, material wastes may also be reduced because extra materials are no longer needed during changeover.

However, combining lean with a green component, with specific waste elimination metrics, will ensure that continuous improvement programs do not ignore environmental wastes such as excess electricity, discarded materials, overuse of water, etc. Also, making green a part of continuous improvement and lean is needed to ensure that it is not thought of as some separate program, or “flavor of the day.” Creating green improvements will result in improved efficiencies and significant savings and will enhance a company’s sustainability program. This ensures that the company’s machine resources, people resources, capital resources and environmental resources are utilized as effectively as possible, with minimal impact on the earth.

Beyond the environmental benefits, the consequences of not dealing with theses wastes include increased disposal costs, regulatory paperwork and fines and increased costs assigned to waste materials.

A Lean & Clean approach will give manufacturers the ability to: